In a new interview, given to mark the first 500 days of his pontificate, Pope Francis has reminisced about his youth, discussed immigration and gives a ten point plan for happiness.
The first excerpts of the interview appeared as a feature article on Sunday in the Argentine magazine “Viva”, a supplement of the newspaper El Clarín.
“The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference, they say: ‘Campa e lascia campà’ …live and let live,” said Pope Francis. “That’s the first step to peace and happiness.”
He then went on to mention the other nine, the next being “giving oneself to others.”
“If one gets tired, one runs the risk of being egoistic,” he said. “And stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.”
Third, he proposed one “moves quietly” and cited the Argentine novel “Don Segundo Sombra,” written by Ricardo Güiraldes.. “In ‘Don Segundo Sombra’ there is a very beautiful thing, a man who looks back on his life, the Pope said.
In his youth, the protagonist was a rocky stream that ran over everything, but as he became older, he was a running river and “quietly peaceful”. The Pope said the elderly have the wisdom to move with “kindness and humility” and have the “calmness of life.” He also repeated his concern that a people that doesn’t take care of its elderly “has no future.”
Fourth, the Pope advocated playing with children and the importance of a healthy culture of leisure, reading and enjoying art. “Consumerism has led to the anxiety of losing” this culture, he said.
Francis then recalled that when he was in Buenos Aires, he would often ask young mothers how often they play with their children. “It was an unexpected question,” he said. “It is hard. The parents go to work and come back when the children are asleep.”
Fifth, the Pope stressed the importance of sharing Sundays with family. He recalled that on his recent visit to Campobasso in southern Italy, the workers did not want to work on Sundays.
Sixth, he said helping young people find employment was a key to happiness. He said it’s important to be creative with them because if they lack opportunities, “they fall into drugs.” He said the rate of suicide is “very high among young people without work.”
“I read the other day, but I do not telegraph it as a scientific fact, that there were 75 million young people under the age of 25 unemployed,” he said. The Pope suggested the youth could be taught skilled work, which would allow them the “dignity of bringing home the bacon.”
For the other keys to happiness, the Pope recommended: looking after nature, rapidly forgetting the negative, respecting those who think differently, and actively seeking peace.
Turning to the international situation, the Pope drew attention to the increasing number of conflicts and wars across the globe. “War destroys,” he said. “And we must cry out for peace. Peace sometimes gives the idea of quietness, but it is not quiet, it is always an active peace.”
“I think that everyone must be committed in the matter of peace, to do everything that they can, what I can do from here,” he said. “Peace is the language we must speak.”
The Holy Father also spoke about those fleeing the horrors of war and other calamities, and how many countries are not generous in helping refugees. He said Europe fears speaking about immigration, but he praised Sweden for its policies, noting that despite their small population, they have allowed in 800,000 immigrants out of a population of 25.3 million.
The Pope also spoke about environmental issues, and how mankind continues to waste the bounty given by God. He also appeared to voice his opposition to fracking – a controversial method of extracting gas that opponents say risks contaminating water supplies.
“When, for example, you want to make use of a mining method that extracts more than other methods, but it contaminates the water, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “And so they go on contaminating nature. I think it’s a question that we do not face: humanity, in the indiscriminate use and tyranny over nature, is it committing suicide?”
In the interview, the Pope also reiterated the Church grows by attraction, not proselytizing. “The worst thing you can do is religious proselytizing, which paralyzes,” he said.
When asked by the interviewer about the possibility of winning a Nobel Prize, Pope Francis said he had not considered it, but added the pursuit of awards and doctorates were not part of his agenda.
The interviewer wrote that Pope Francis will be visiting Argentina in 2016 for the nation’s bicentenary of independence.